ISIS Numbers Fall to Lowest Levels in 2 Years after Military Offensives in Iraq and Syria

ISIS Numbers Fall to Lowest Levels in 2 Years after Military Offensives in Iraq and Syria
Wed Apr 13, 2016 16:42:03

ISIS numbers are at their lowest levels since 2014 after a wave of military action in Iraq and Syria, but Al Qaeda and the Taliban are resurgent in Afghanistan, its defense minister has warned.

The territory held by ISIS extremists has been reduced by 40 per cent in Iraq and 10 per cent in Syria in the last year, according to the US deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

But as international and local military action works to wipe out the terror group, it was confirmed that rival terror faction Al Qaeda is still ‘very active’ and a ‘big threat’ in Afghanistan.

Blinken said ISIS ranks had dipped to their lowest level since Washington began monitoring the group two years ago.

He said: “Working by, with and through local partners, we have taken back 40 per cent of the territory that ISIS controlled a year ago in Iraq and 10 percent in Syria. In fact, we assess Daesh’s numbers are the lowest they’ve been since we began monitoring their manpower in 2014,” he added, using one of three terms US officials use interchangeably to refer to ISIS.

Blinken did not put a new figure on the size of the terrorist group’s fighting force in his statement to the Senate committee overseeing funding for the State Department’s program to counter violent extremism.

But in September 2014, the last estimate to which Blinken referred, a US intelligence official told AFP that the CIA believed the group could put between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters in the field, both foreign fighters and local recruits.

Since then, US-backed Iraqi and Kurdish forces have pushed ISIS fighters back from the cities of Tikrit and Ramadi and taken territory in northern Syria, while Syrian forces receiving Russian support have recaptured the Syrian city of Palmyra.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s most senior defense official said Al Qaeda was resurgent in Afghanistan, and forming fresh links with the Taliban who are gaining territory.

Acting Defense Minister Masoom Stanikzai told CNN that Al Qaeda operatives were staying under the radar but beginning to expand their influence.

He told the network: “They are really very active. They are working in quiet and reorganizing themselves and preparing themselves for bigger attacks. They are working behind other networks, giving them support and the experience they had in different places. And double their resources and recruitment and other things. That is how they are not talking too much. They are not making press statements. It is a big threat.”

He said he was also becoming concerned over fresh links being made between al Qaeda and the Taliban.
US officials told CNN the number of ‘core’ Al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan could be up to 300.

On Wednesday, Obama and his top aides are set to evaluate the progress made so far in the anti-ISIS fight and weigh proposals for upping the pressure on the terrorists.

S/SH 11

string(1772) "[{"id":"1807877","sort":"3528313","contenttypeid":"21","pic":"/2016/04/13/alalam_635961618371127951_25f_4x3.jpg","title":"Iraqi Forces Wipe Heet Hospital in Western Anbar, 40 ISIS Militants Killed"} ,{"id":"1807876","sort":"3528314","contenttypeid":"21","pic":"/2016/04/13/alalam_635961617107646310_25f_4x3.jpg","title":"Turkey’s Army Shells ‘ISIS Positions’ in Northern Syria"} ,{"id":"1807786","sort":"3528315","contenttypeid":"21","pic":"/2016/04/13/alalam_635961401921108782_25f_4x3.mp4","title":"VIDEO: Syrian Army Destroys ISIS, Nusra Front Positions in Several Areas"} ,{"id":"1807617","sort":"3528316","contenttypeid":"21","pic":"/2016/04/12/alalam_635960860476209760_25f_4x3.jpg","title":"Russian Federal Security Service Arrests ISIS Terrorists in St. Petersburg"} ,{"id":"1807562","sort":"3528317","contenttypeid":"21","pic":"/2016/04/12/alalam_635960731449085525_25f_4x3.jpg","title":"6 Injured in Shelling on Turkey's Kilis from ISIS-Controlled Syrian Territory"} ,{"id":"1807548","sort":"3528318","contenttypeid":"21","pic":"/2016/04/12/alalam_635960707128473613_25f_4x3.jpg","title":"ISIS Internal Clashes between Elements West of Ramadi in Iraq"} ,{"id":"1807451","sort":"3528319","contenttypeid":"21","pic":"/2016/04/12/alalam_635960583619667442_25f_4x3.jpg","title":"ISIS Militants Take Over Yarmouk Refugee Camp from Al-Nusra Front"} ,{"id":"1807440","sort":"3528320","contenttypeid":"21","pic":"/2016/04/12/alalam_635960576637279273_25f_4x3.jpg","title":"ISIS Militants Impose Heavy Defeat on Rival Terrorist Groups in Syria’s Aleppo"} ,{"id":"1807431","sort":"3528321","contenttypeid":"21","pic":"/2016/04/12/alalam_635960564749889417_25f_4x3.mp4","title":"VIDEO: Syrian Army Troops March on ISIS Militants’ Military Bases East of Aleppo"} ]"